A lot or a little?
The parents' guide to what's in this game.
What parents need to know
Parents need to know that Hellblade: Senua's Sacrifice is a downloadable action game with a lot of graphic violence. It features sword-based combat, with blood and gore, along with frightening scenes against real and imagined monsters that could scare younger players. It also attempts to handle and address mental illness in a mature and respectful way, making players feel sympathy for the protagonist. There are some brief scenes of nudity (with a topless woman lying down), and strong frequent use of profanity, including "s--t" and "f--k."
What's it about?
HELLBLADE: SENUA'S SACRIFICE stars a young female Celtic warrior, Senua, in the Viking age, who descends into madness as she enters Viking Hell to fight for the soul of her dead lover. But because of Senua's psychosis, gamers might not always know what's real and what's only in Senua's mind. The game has no on-screen heads-up display (HUD) to tell you where to go or what to do, so you'll rely on Senua's voices in her head to provide direction and hints. In fact, you're encouraged to play with headphones so that you can hear the spatial, multidirectional audio. Played from a third-person view, much of the six- to eight-hour single-player game focuses on exploration, puzzle solving, and combat. Combat is mostly melee-based, as Senua uses a sword to hack and slash at mythological creatures who stand in her way -- including tougher boss battles.
Is it any good?
This action game is a refreshingly different, borderline disturbing game that's completely engaging and stays around in your mind because of the emotions it evokes. You'll connect with this traumatized character as more of her story unfolds while you play, and you might second-guess what's real and what's in her mind. The gameplay is a healthy mix of puzzle solving and combat. With the former, you'll be asked to find shapes in nature to unlock areas, lining up objects the right way, and navigating through dark caves using audible clues. The voice talent and music are fantastic, and so are the graphics. Truthfully, this is one gorgeous game that looks so real a passerby might do a double-take. The Ninja Theory developers did a great job exploring mental illness, using sights and sounds that help you relate to what the protagonist is going through.
As impressive as this game is, there are some issues. One is its short play, coming in at six to eight hours. This is a minor issue, because it's really about quality, not quantity for some games. Plus, it's priced right at $30. Now, because there's no HUD, you'll have to go through some trial and error to see what works and what doesn't -- and the game isn't very forgiving. If Senua dies too many times, you'll need to start this adventure all over from the beginning. It's hard to see why the developers decided on this, as it will rub some the wrong way, but that doesn't take away too much from the game. There's a bit of repetition in the puzzles, but it's forgivable. Overall, Hellblade: Senua's Sacrifice is one of 2017's top games so far. It's a beautiful, atmospheric, and emotionally engaging adventure that will make you want to tell all your friends about it.
Talk to your kids about ...
Families can talk about violence in video games. Is the blood and gore too graphic given its presentation as a near-photorealistic game (in fact, some characters are videos of real actors)? Would this game be as gripping with less violent imagery?
Talk about a video game that deals with mental illness. Is it good for players to experience what Senua goes through, including voices that dance around in her head? There are moments in the game that are meant for the player to feel uncomfortable, afraid, confused, and angry, but are parents OK with letting their kids step into the mind of a tortured character?
- Platforms: PlayStation 4, Windows
- Price: $29.99
- Pricing structure: Paid
- Available online? Available online
- Developer: Ninja Theory
- Release date: August 11, 2017
- Genre: Action/Adventure
- Topics: Magic and Fantasy, Adventures, Great Girl Role Models, Misfits and Underdogs, Monsters, Ghosts, and Vampires
- ESRB rating: M for Blood and Gore, Strong Language, Intense Violence, Nudity
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Common Sense Media's unbiased ratings are created by expert reviewers and aren't influenced by the product's creators or by any of our funders, affiliates, or partners.